“Be careful what you wish for,” replied John Stelzer after I jokingly asked the OPRF athletic director when was a good time for me to interview for the head football coaching position, vacated last week by Jim Nudera after 12 years at the helm. I knew exactly what Stelzer meant.
What many people don’t understand is that coaching isn’t as easy as it looks. A coach can only do so much. He can spend every waking day teaching and preaching, but if the players don’t execute and/or the competition is better, then there is no winning and the reward can only be measured in effort.
After going 41-69 with just three winning seasons in his dozen years at the post, Nudera rides into the sunset banking on the effort he coached out of the hundreds of players once under his tutelage — the victories were too few to have any real value. His reward isn’t a trophy, but an appreciative handshake from a former player.
“I think if you asked several coaches, you’d get the same answer,” said Nudera last week. “Having a former player who is now a mature adult and outstanding citizen come up to you and say ‘thanks’ is very gratifying.”
Measure a good high school coach however you want, but if you’re basing it solely on wins and losses, then you have missed a key point: It’s the high school level. I’m not saying wins and losses don’t mean anything — of course they do. I’m saying they are only a part of the equation when it comes to measuring a coach’s performance at this level.
You see, high school coaches who pour their souls into their work don’t fail. Nudera didn’t fail at turning a high school football program around, but he didn’t succeed either. What Nudera did do was make a difference in many young lives. For that, all fans, students, players and parents of the football program should be grateful. Say goodbye. Say thanks for the effort.
Nudera, only the 18th head football coach in OPRF’s history, also had the stones to say it’s time for someone else to have a shot at the gig. He’s not being forced out. He leaves with the respect of his colleagues if not the majority of past and present parents.
“I don’t use the word integrity too often when describing someone,” said Stelzer, “but Jim Nudera personifies it. He is truly one of the finest people I have been associated with, an excellent coach and, more importantly, a wonderful teacher.”
If Stelzer is describing the outgoing head football coach in this fashion, can you imagine what he’ll think of the new head football coach?
Stelzer didn’t answer my e-mail inquiring if Mike Ditka is being considered.